Rebuild the working class movement.
Oppose the EU from the left.
Renew and strengthen the Communist Party.
The re-election of a Tory government means that the ruling class offensive will now be stepped up on every front, to concentrate yet more wealth and power in the hands of monopoly capital centred on the City of London.
We know already that the Tories will attack the welfare benefits of the working poor, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled as never before.
Public services will continue to be slashed or privatised, with a fresh rash of publicly subsidised ‘free schools’ and academies destroying whole swathes of local authority and comprehensive education across England.
Local government funding will be sliced to the bone, except where councils take the Osborne shilling and hand over their collective decision making powers to a provincial governor, an all-powerful mayor whose election can be more easily influenced by the right-wing gutter press.
And this will itself be only one aspect of an all-round attack on democratic rights to make ‘Britain plc’ a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary of City of London banks, hedge funds and private equity capitalists.
While the Communist Party sees nothing progressive in religious fundamentalism and condemns the inhuman, anti-women, sectarian barbarism of movements such as Islamic State, we do not trust the Tories not to turn sweeping new ‘anti-subversion’ and ‘anti-terrorism’ powers against those who, like us, fight for the overthrow of capitalism by the mass of the people.
The British state has all the powers and resources necessary to monitor and deal with those who pursue their religious or political objectives through the mass murder of innocent civilians.
Indeed, recent history confirms that all too often it is the people who need whatever protection can be secured, within and outside the law, against the arbitrary and oppressive use of state power.
To the extent that the Human Rights Act offers such protection, it must be defended against Tory plans to replace it with a Bill of Rights which will contain anti-progressive provisions reflecting the political balance of forces in Tory Britain today, rather than when the Council of Europe drew up its framework, the European Convention on Human Rights, following the defeat of Nazi Germany.
When the Tories talk of human or individual rights and so-called ‘British values’, they mean above all the right to own property, to profit from the exploitation of labour through capital, to enjoy unearned wealth and privilege and to pass on such inequality to future generations.
That is why another new policy of this Tory government will be to restrict employment rights still further, making it even easier for employers to sack workers and to break strikes with agency labour. The Tories intend to launch a barrage of anti-trade union laws, including additional limits on the right to strike, imposing thresholds that would make industrial action supported by a clear majority of workers in, say, a 70 per cent turnout, illegal.
In fact, the Tory government fails one of its own tests in this regard, having won the votes of only 24 per cent of the electorate, instead of the 40 per cent to be demanded of workers in a strike ballot. Eleven members of the new Cabinet also fail this particular test, including Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced this latest attack on workers’ rights on the same morning that Prime Minister Cameron told his ministers that the Conservatives were ‘the real party of working people’.
That, of course, is a bit rich coming from the leader of the party of the bankers, spivs, speculators, tax dodgers, landowners and landlords.
Which raises the question: how could such a party win a General Election, especially after five years of anti-working class austerity and privatisation?
Assessing the election
We should approach the answers with a sense of proportion. To believe wide sections of Britain’s mass media, one might think that the mass of the people had endorsed the Tories and their manifesto, while rejecting Labour and its policies – not least because the Labour Party had supposedly moved ‘too far to the left’.
In particular, it might appear, Labour has been comprehensively rejected by the people of England.
Let’s take these myths in turn. Only 37 per cent of voters plumped for the Tories. That’s just 24 per cent of all those on the electoral register and 21 per cent – barely one in five – of the adult population.
While the Tories gained 24 net seats on May 7, their share of the vote rose by just half of the Labour increase of 1.5 percentage points. In England, the Tory vote increased by 1.4 percentage points, whereas Labour’s actually rose by 3.6 – more than twice as much.
So, compared with five years ago, the Labour vote advanced more in England and Britain overall than that of the Tories.
But Cameron & Co. gained more seats, and enough to form an overall majority, because of (1) the distribution of the votes, with Labour doing best in English and Welsh seats which it already controlled; (2) the impact of UKIP and Green Party advances in key marginal seats that Labour needed to win – but where working class electors have turned away from a Labour Party that does not clearly represent their fundamental interests; (3) a swing to the Tories in English seats previously held by the LibDems; and (4) Labour’s eclipse by the SNP in Scotland.
No system of Proportional Representation would have prevented the return of a right-wing government on May 7, nor would PR be guaranteed to do so in 2020 without the fall of UKIP. Nevertheless, the Communist Party will continue to advocate the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies, which combines fair representation with local accountability (especially alongside a genuine right of recall for electors over their MP).
A deeper, more significant factor in Labour’s defeat is the reality that some 14 per cent of adults in Britain are not registered to vote, while another 29 per cent are registered but choose not to vote. This means that 43 per cent of people abstain from the electoral struggle – most of them working class, young, unemployed, immigrants and/or in rented accommodation.
What an indictment of what Lenin described as a ‘democracy of the moneybags’, in which political representation is corrupted and narrowed by big business money and its right-wing gutter press!
Certainly, there is no objective evidence to indicate that Labour’s mildly progressive policies to increase taxation on the wealthy and the banks, freeze energy prices, lift the minimum wage and abolish zero-hour contracts repulsed large numbers of electors. Although anti-immigration sentiment was a factor in Labour losing votes to UKIP and, to a lesser extent, to the Tories, this was less important to voters than health, the economy and education – in that order – according to the opinion polls.
On health, Labour was hampered in its attack on privatisation, the NHS funding crisis and PFI because the last Labour government had opened the door wider to all three.
On the economy, Labour’s failure – over years – to campaign against the banks, tax havens, ‘quantitative easing’ and austerity in favour of public services, selective public ownership and rebalancing a modernised economy, made it easier for the Tories and mass media to pin the unwarranted label of business-hating incompetence on Miliband and Balls.
On the SNP, the decision by the majority of Scottish Labour MPs, MSPs and party members, together with some unions, to elect Trident-lovin’, cuts-lovin’, devo-hatin’ Jim Murphy as their leader has proved catastrophic.
Giving such a gift to the SNP meant that nationalist advance in the opinion polls could then be used to create another factor in favour of a Tory victory – fear of the SNP using its influence on a minority Labour government to win favours for Scotland at the expense of England.
Labour’s only hope of a revival in Scotland is not only the immediate replacement of Murphy by a leader from the left, but also – as in England and Wales – a decisive turn to left and progressive policies on major economic, social, environmental and international questions.
This must include coming out clearly in favour of a federal Britain, with equal status between its constituent nations and powerful, directly elected regional assemblies in England where demand exists. And based not on a devolution of responsibility for imposing fiscal austerity, but on policies to redistribute wealth across all the regions and nations of Britain, from the monopoly capitalist class to the working class and the mass of the people.
It must also include bold policies to diversify media ownership, to break up the monopolies which dominate the print media in Britain and – with their lies, distortions, character assassinations and overwhelmingly right-wing bias – make rational political debate within an informed electorate all but impossible
Such policies will only be won through united struggle, led by the labour movement in a popular, democratic, anti-monopoly alliance of forces.
Communists and elections
The Communist Party’s General Election campaign to project this perspective and these policies was bigger and bolder than at any time since we re-established the party in 1988. Our nine parliamentary candidates and their supporters, together with comrades who fought in local elections, should be congratulated on their tremendous efforts. In our council contests, the CP share of the poll varied between 2 per cent and 11 per cent.
At the same time, we should be self-critical that we did not make a bigger contribution as a party to the huge political struggle that has just taken place on the electoral front, raising the vital questions, projecting the Communist Party and socialism, building and strengthening our alliances in working class communities.
We should now publish a full illustrated report of our campaign, so that many more Party members are clear about the reasons why wider Communist Party participation in elections reinforces and enhances our engagement in extra-parliamentary struggle.
All Party branches are instructed to contest the May 5 2016 local and regional elections in England, complementing a major effort in the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly of Wales elections.
No to parliamentary fatalism!
The result on May 7 leaves the labour and progressive movements – and within them the Communist Party – with a number of strategic priorities and tasks over the coming period.
They flow from a perspective which rejects the self-defeating notion that five years of rhetorical opposition to Tory policies, combined with a superficial makeover in matters of presentation and leadership, and even a turn to the right, will deliver a Labour victory in 2020.
It will not – especially after the Tories preside over a change in electoral boundaries that could cost Labour at least 20 seats.
Instead of such parliamentary fatalism, the Communist Party lays out its perspectives on the basis of mass, class struggle in the interests of the working class, democracy, peace and the future of our planet.
The objective should be to drive this government out of office, to spare millions of people a full five years of misery.
This is not an impossible prospect: Britain’s economic recovery is fragile, based on debt and inflated values, dogged by low investment, low productivity and high imports.
Tory divisions over the European Union will come to the fore as a referendum approaches. However, Labour will only be able to take full advantage of these divisions if it has switched to supporting popular sovereignty and a referendum, and so is no longer alongside the Tory government, the City and big business in backing Britain’s membership of the monopoly capitalist and militarist EU.
Our strategic perspectives and priorities are that:
1 Working class organisation must be rebuilt in workplaces and local communities, among the unemployed and housing tenants, strengthening trades unions and trades councils.
2 Workers and the trades unions must be won to a united campaign against new and existing anti-trade union laws, backing the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and being prepared to take unofficial action where necessary in order to expose and frustrate Tory and ruling class strategy.
3 The People’s Assembly must be developed at every level and in every part of Britain as a broad-based militant mass movement against austerity and privatisation, for the left and progressive alternative set out in the People’s Manifesto, with the trade union movement playing a central and leading role in its organisation and activities.
4 Based on its extensive trade union support, the National Assembly of Women should be built at local, regional and national levels to draw many more women into campaigning against welfare cuts, privatisation and nuclear weapons; and in support of decent benefits, public services, the NHS and peace.
5 The labour movement must fulfil its responsibility to reclaim the Labour Party as a mass party whose policies represent the interests of the working class, or failing significant progress by the Labour Party conference in 2016 at the latest, to begin taking the steps necessary to re-establish a genuine mass party of labour.
6 In the meantime, in order to strengthen the fight to reclaim the Labour Party, trades unions should consider forming a trade union party affiliated to Labour which campaigns for left and progressive policies in the interests of the working class and people generally.
7 Within the labour movement and across the left, the arguments must be put in favour of progressive federalism for the regions and nations of Britain; for working class and people’s unity in the fight against British state-monopoly capitalism, reactionary nationalism and racism.
8 CND and its affiliated bodies in Scotland and Wales should be reinvigorated and expanded as a vital part of the struggle to defeat plans to renew Britain’s nuclear weapons system. A relaunched British Peace Assembly will help infuse the peace movement with an essential anti-imperialist outlook.
9 Socialists, Communists and trade unionists and their organisations must urgently consider how to construct a campaigning alliance to project the democratic, working class and internationalist case against the EU, and for British withdrawal, in the period up to the proposed referendum in 2017.
10 Greater understanding needs to be won in the trade union and progressive movements, including in the People’s Assembly, of the role of the Morning Star as the daily newspaper of the labour movement which informs, inspires and helps mobilise people in struggle.
As for the Communist Party, we urgently need to enhance our role and work as the Marxist party of the labour and anti-imperialist movements. To equip us effectively for the challenges ahead, there will have to be a process of communist renewal – driven by Marxist-Leninist education, training and leading by example – to help ensure the development of a party that is politically advanced, militant, well-organised and united on the basis of democratic participation and self-discipline.
Designing, leading and guiding such a process must be a top priority for the EC and its political and organisation committees over the period to our 54th congress in 2016.
This statement was endorsed by the Communist Party executive committee on May 16, 2015, following discussion of the political report delivered by Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths
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